Ship Captain Schools and Training Programs: How to Choose

Ship captains can have careers outside the military, such as working in product transport for global corporations or commanding a cruise ship. Read on for info about picking a school and to see U.S. schools with relevant degree programs.

Programs that train students to become ship captains can be found at maritime academies and 4-year colleges and universities. There are also non-military-related schools where students can earn the education needed to begin a career in the field.

Schools for Aspiring Ship Captains

At the following schools, students who want to become ship captains can get relevant training in the field:

Institution Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition (2015-2016)*
AVTEC-Alaska's Institute of Technology Seward, AK Less than 2-year, Public Certificate $1,320
Maine Maritime Academy Castine, ME 4-year, Public Associate's, Bachelor's $12,788 in-state, $25,362 out-of-state
Massachusetts Maritime Academy Buzzards Bay, MA 4-year, Public Bachelor's $7,630 in-state, $23,436 out-of-state
The California Maritime Academy Vallejo, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's $6,558 in-state, $17,718 out-of-state
United States Merchant Marine Academy Kings Point, NY 4-year, Public Bachelor's $1,107
University of Alaska Southeast Juneau, AK 4-year, Public Undergraduate certificate $6,132 in-state, $17,306 out-of-state

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics

School and Training Program Selection Criteria

Here is some advice for aspiring ship captains who are looking into the training programs offered at different academies, universities and colleges.

  • You may want to choose a school that offers a U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) upon graduation, because an MMC allows a graduate to work on any U.S. ship in any ocean, regardless of the ship's size, load or horsepower.
  • Student may want to review the school's curriculum prior to the program in order to ensure that it provides broad, interdisciplinary coursework and hands-on training opportunities.
  • Students may want to investigate the benefits offered to graduates. All programs that carry an MMC credential offer graduates the opportunity to participate in the U.S. Navy or Coast Guard and earn a reserve officer's commission.
  • Students may want to review the faculty and staff at the school of their choice to ensure that they have the following credentials: Master Mariner, Unlimited, or Any Ocean, since these designations signify that a professor can work on any size U.S. ship over any water.

Marine Transportation Programs

These programs combine humanities and science courses with training and instruction in different aspects of the maritime industry, including business and technology. Students will also have to take many lab-based courses. In addition, many programs require training cruises in the spring or summer.

Licensed Deck Officer Programs

Licensed deck officer programs are 3- or 4-year programs. Similar to programs in marine transportation, these programs include courses in business and science in addition to marine-specific courses. Passing the Merchant Mariner's license examination is the final requirement students need to meet in order to earn the degree.

There are multiple programs offered by maritime academies, as well as two- and four-year postsecondary schools, that can provide the necessary education for aspiring ship captains.

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